by Bill Finley
Caught up in the doping scandal involving Dr. Seth Fishman and a number of standardbred horsepeople, owner/trainer Adrienne Hall has voluntarily turned in her New Jersey Racing Commission (NJRC) license, Harness Racing Update has learned.
Hall said she did so after failing to come to an agreement with the state racing commission over when her hearing would be held. While Hall testified against Fishman in federal court, she still must testify against his former assistant, Lisa Gianelli. Gianelli’s trial was postponed after her lawyer tested positive for COVID-19 and no date has been set yet for the start of her new trial. Hall said lawyers from the Department of Justice asked that she not testify before the racing commission before the Gianelli trial was concluded. The NJRC did not agree to the delay, so Hall went ahead and turned in her license.
“With an additional case still open and possibly headed to trial I was asked to refrain from participating in any open hearings that could compromise my future testimony,” Hall said. “This request was relayed to the state racing commissions. Unfortunately, the NJRC have been unwilling to postpone open hearings, despite my assurances I’m not racing or entering horses at the moment. Because of that, I have voluntarily relinquished my license to ensure the integrity of the open federal cases and the wishes of the Southern District of New York. It is a shame that certain state agencies, including those currently failing to abide by their own state requirements, would choose to undermine larger criminal cases.”
Hall said that she did not show up for a NJRC hearing because she was under the impression it wasn’t necessary. The NJRC, she said, followed up with a letter to her in which it said it had ruled that she was “unsuitable for racing.”
“My attorney and I were under the impression we didn’t have to appear because the license had already been relinquished,” she said. “Lo and behold, I got a letter saying you failed to appear and you have been deemed unsuitable for racing, which is nonsense. What are they going to do when all these other names come out? You know how many people are going to be unsuitable for racing? I actually did a good thing and I was completely honest and this is how they are going to treat me?
“At first the racing commission was understanding, which they should have been. Then it came to the point where they said I can’t postpone my hearing and, ‘If you don’t come in on such and such a date we will take action against you.’ Basically, they were trying to undermine the government’s case in order to fit their own agenda. I didn’t appreciate that.”
Hall testified in court that she received illegal performance-enhancing drugs from Fishman and used them on her horses. Fishman was found guilty of two counts of conspiring to violate adulteration and misbranding laws and the manufacture of PEDs and faces up to 20 years in prison. After her testimony, Hall’s license was promptly revoked by the United States Trotting Association, but Meadowlands owner Jeff Gural had a very different take on the matter. He hailed Hall as a whistle blower and said banning her would discourage others from coming forward to provide evidence against drug cheats. Gural allowed her to race at the Meadowlands, but that is no longer possible since she does not have a valid NJRC license.
Despite receiving the notification from the NJRC, Hall believes there is a path to her being reinstated after the Gianelli trial has concluded.
“Because I submitted my license voluntarily, when I am ready to talk to them I can make an appointment and set up a hearing,” she said. “I’d love to have this all over with, but I can’t.”
However, she is not sure that she wants to return to training.
“I have had a lot of really influential people contact me and thank me for what I did and offer me positions,” she said. “Some have asked that I help with HISA (Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act). Others want me to do more work with after care. I’m more interested in that than the racing side of the business. I’ll take a month or two to clear my head and figure out what I really want to do. I have had some really nice people support me and that has helped me get through this.”